Birkirkara will be aiming for a positive result in Žilina on Wednesday to complete a dream run in the UEFA Champions League as they face Slovakian champions MŠK Žilina in the second leg of the second qualifying round at the Pod Dub?om Stadion, kick-off at 19:30.
After being awarded a 3-0 win over FC Santa Coloma and a 4-3 win over the Andorran champions in the first qualifying round, the Stripes stunned the champions of Slovakia in last week’s first leg, defeating them 1-0 thanks to an early goal by Nikola Vukanac. This was a historic win for Paul Zammit’s side as it was the first time a Maltese team registered a win in a second round of a UEFA competition.
Therefore even a draw would be enough for Birkirkara to make further history by being the first local club to reach a third round in a UEFA competition.
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However without any doubt, the game in Žilina will be a most difficult one for the Stripes. MŠK Žilina will be all out to regain lost pride and set-up a third qualifying round clash with Litex Lovech of Bulgaria. Litex eliminated Rudar Pljevlja of Montenegro with a 5-0 aggregate score after winning 4-0 away from home on Tuesday.
Over the last nine years, MŠK Žilina always managed to reach a further round in UEFA competitions, except for 2002 and 2004 when they were eliminated by FC Basel of Switzerland and Dinamo Bucharest of Romania respectively. They have a remarkable record in Europe with 19 wins and 11 draws out of 47 matches.
MŠK Žilina, who defeated Zlaté Moravce 2-1 in the first league game on Saturday, need a win with at least a two-goal difference to make sure of a place in the next stage of the UEFA Champions League. With a 1-0 win for the Slovakian champions, extra-time would be necessary while any other win with a one-goal difference would reward Birkirkara on the away-goals rule.
Trevor Cilia, who missed the first leg due to an injury, is ruled out once again. Andrew Decesare joins him on the sidelines after being handed a one-match ban. On the other hand, on a positive note, Rowen Muscat will be back after being unable to make it for last week’s game.
Wednesday’s game will be controlled by Hungarian officials, namely referee Zsolt Szabo, assistant referees Robert Kispal and Zsolt Varga and fourth official Adam Nemeth.